Improved support for regional and remote paediatric oncology families: a randomised controlled trial of videotelephony (2007–2010)
Childhood cancer presents a major life stressor for the entire family. Significant changes to the everyday lives of families, practically, socially and emotionally cause major disruption. There is evidence that this disruption results in isolation and poor communication between family members, anxiety, low self-esteem and school problems for siblings and anxiety, post-traumatic stress symptoms and risk of depression for parents. Providing ongoing support to these families is an essential part of care. The Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) Paediatric Oncology Service in Brisbane is the major tertiary paediatric referral centre for Queensland, northern New South Wales and the southwest Pacific. A multidisciplinary team of medical, nursing, and allied health professionals provides care and support to children with cancer, as well as their families. Each year around 100 newly diagnosed patients are cared for. Around 60% of the families cared for by the service live in regional and remote areas. There are a number of challenges which inhibit the equitable provision of specialist health services to these areas including availability of health care professionals and accessibility due to distance, time, cost and transport. For paediatric oncology families, opportunities to receive support are limited. One possible solution is the use of online support mechanisms, such as videotelephony, to facilitate the provision of much needed support to patients, parents, siblings and the family as a whole. The objective of this research is to see if videotelephony can be used to support regional and remote families of the Royal Children's Hospital Paediatric Oncology Service providing indizidualised communication, education, counselling and monitoring. This will present a new and innovative use of videophone technology as well as a new method for supporting regional and remote oncology patients and their families.